I have to say that I haven’t cooked a chicken and mushroom pie in yonks. This is at least partly because I have been on a diet for years and pie does not fit well with that enterprise. The rest is bone-idle laziness which is stupid because they are so easy!
When it comes to this sort of pie I just don’t like the shop-bought pastry. Pastry is so quick to make that buying it off the shelf feels idiotic and is never the right texture for me.
Often I do a very short, rough pastry, but that is not always suitable for a pie which may have a fair amount of liquid in it. The pastry I have used here is a hot water paste – the sort of thing you would use for pork pies. However, when cooked hot on top of this sort of pie the result is a hard, brittle pastry than does not go soggy and has a real biscuit feel to it.
So, on to the recipe …
- 1 small chicken - Free range if poss, but I will forgive you if you can't afford it
- 1 large onions
- 3 cloves garlic
- Big handful of ordinary Mushrooms - white
- 2 tablespoons Flour, Plain - for thickening
- 200 to 250ml Chicken Stock
- fistful chopped Parsley
- 250 grams Flour, Plain - for the pastry
- 70 grams Butter - Unsalted
- 1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt - fine
- 140 mil Water - boiling
- 1 tablespoon Milk - for glazing
First of all, a quick word about the chicken content. You really have a very simple choice. Buy 4 chicken breasts for six or seven quid – probably intensively grown – or buy a small free range chicken for about the same cost. The latter, being a small bird, gives you much nicer meat, has probably had a happier life and you get the luxury of the leg and thigh meat thrown in. In all, you probably end up with the same amount of chicken (or, at least enough for four in this recipe) and you can feel much better about yourself. However, you do have to get the meat off! Look out for my simple lesson!
Having said all that, although I think we all should use free range chickens, I know that some people find them too expensive; I often do.
First up, let's get the chicken going.
Fry off a large onion, coarsely chopped (but not too coarse), and 3 cloves garlic. Add the chicken and cook till just turning golden. You really need a good large pan for this so there is room around the meat. If you haven't, remove the onion and cook the chicken in stages. Don’t work at too high a heat or you may burn the onions slightly and it will give a bitter aftertaste.
Add the mushrooms and fry for a couple of minutes more.
Now add a couple of tablespoons of plain flour. I leave it up to you how thick you want the gravy at this point! Stir well until the flour is properly mixed in and has absorbed any liquid from the mushrooms. Add the stock bit by bit, stiring well till you have the thickness you want. Leave to simmer for ten minutes or so.
Now, make the pastry.
We make the pastry now because it works best to use this style of pastry while it is still warm.
Put the flour, salt and half the butter in a food processor and mix till all the butter has gone. Now, melt the rest of the butter into the boiling water and add to the flour. Mix at a slow speed till it is just mixed in and stop.
The paste may be a pasty at this stage (it happens like that), so turn it out onto a surface and add a little more flour, kneading it into a very soft, elastic dough. Don't overwork it - pastry should never be worked like bread dough. Put aside, covered with clingfilm, but don’t refrigerate.
Check the seasoning of the filling and add a fistful of chopped parsley. Now empty into a pie dish so that it is about a centimetre below the lip.
Roll the pastry out to slightly larger than the dish and place on top. Rather than overlapping the edge of the dish, tuck in the edges so the pastry is lower in the middle. Don’t worry if this is all rough – really, the rougher the better!
Glaze the top with milk and cook in a medium oven (160-180 degrees Celsius) until golden and crisp – probably 1/2 an hour or so.
Serve with a big chunk of really fresh cabbage (cut on into four and cook the whole pieces) and mash spuds.